Japanese culture has a quiet elegance and understated grace that captures anyone it touches. Though it is easy to appreciate, the culture is much more difficult to experience first hand. These aren’t a people who over-share, and the typical two-week vacation isn’t enough time to get into their inner circle. Unless, of course, you stay at the Kaya Villa’s thatched cottage.
The cottage is located in the quaint village of Miyama, which provides a needed contrast to the modern cities of Japan. Rice paddies and thick forests cover the mountains that surround this community. And while the amenities are very modern, the cottage’s story is anything but.
Thatched roof history dates back 5,000 years and is congruent with the history of Japan itself. But now that Japan is enthusiastically welcoming outside influence, and young people flood into cities, the villages and farms that fed Japan are dwindling along with their way of life. This is the old way of life, the way of tea ceremonies, hidden shrines, farming, and yes, thatched roof villages. The core of this way of life is living off the land, in harmony with the land, in a sustainable and clean way. As I listened to the Kaya Villa team discuss the ancient way’s dedication to sustainable living, it started to sound shockingly familiar. You only need to search #CleanLiving to know this old way is a very modern ideal.
But what is most incredible is that something so rich in history and morality could feel so good. The cottages are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and their unobtrusive and organic structure means you’re experiencing nature without all the hassle. The cottage walls are built of cedar, which exude a heavenly scent you could swim in. And the cedar bathtub doesn’t hurt either. As you lay in bed, listen to the nighttime chorus literally sing you to sleep, breath in the rich cedar smell, and commend yourself on your #CleanLiving.
If you can tear yourself away from the cottage, the community of Miyama will welcome you and, even better, share their world with you. A bike ride is the first step, and as every gardener in town bows, smiles, and waves at you, it’s ok to feel like you’re part of the family. Walk up to the village shrine, take a picnic by the river, or even a swim in the perfectly clear water. Your time wouldn’t be complete without a cooking class from Sachiko and Toyoko, two ladies who will make you want to move to Miyama and be adopted by them (if not for their warm hearts, then for their amazing cooking!). Work off the fabulous Japanese cuisine with an easy hike through the Japanese forest, and learn nature’s secrets from a local guide. But leave time for yoga with Junko Saito, the renowned Japanese instructor who is as ruthless as she is gentle. In the evening, watch the sunset over the rice paddies from the cottage’s porch while you grill up a well-deserved dinner of delicious local produce.
The Kaya Villa offers a connection to the Japanese culture about which many will only read and dream. This connection isn’t just a glimpse, but an immersion, and with a comfort and welcome to make you wonder if you didn’t once live here in a past life. You’ll learn to pace your current life a beat slower, smile to strangers a bit kinder, and the quiet grace which exudes from the Japanese will imprint itself on your heart forever.
Blakely left her job as an advertising producer in New York to turn professional traveler with her husband. As they explore, learn, give, and get lost, thrilled, and changed through distant lands, she recounts it all on her travel blog and enables couch travelers everywhere. She now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.